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Green Fees 

Santa Rosa's historic Bennett Valley golf course makes the move to LEED

10.08.08


If there is one sport that has long been in possession of the word "green" without intending any reference beyond the color of grass, it would have to be golf. From an environmental standpoint, golf is not known for being outstanding. Imagine all of the water it takes to just keep the course watered, not to mention fertilized. No, despite the electric carts, golf does not jump to mind when I try to visualize what properties make up an environmentally friendly sport. Santa Rosa's Bennett Valley Golf Course, which in the last year has undergone a long-awaited and much-needed revamping of the grounds, does not claim to be a bastion for the greening of the sport. What it does offer, however, is enough to pique my interest and spur me to investigate further.

I spoke with Richard Hovded, the park planning and development manager for Santa Rosa Parks and Recreation Department, about the Bennett Valley's greening and the upcoming event Golfing for the Planet, a fundraiser and educational event for the Climate Protection Campaign's Community Climate Action Plan. This plan, sponsored in part by local city and county governments, has been two years in the making and could quite possibly offer a critical opportunity for Sonoma County to reduce emissions to the degree necessary to stave off global warming.

The Bennett Valley Golf Course has been a municipal course since 1970. Hovded reminds me that, back then, the golf course was located basically in the boonies, but as the only golf course in Santa Rosa, it soon developed a steady following. Ah, those were the days, when volunteer members could decide, you know what, this old farm house needs some revamping, let's add some rooms and call it a club house. The resulting building, while perhaps well loved by the regulars, was not up to code, and so the city of Santa Rosa saved their green fees in hopes that, eventually, they would be able to build a clubhouse worthy of the community which it serves.

Last year, the city completed the new clubhouse, pro shop and after-hours community and event center. The new building, which Hovded says is the first green building for the city, was nothing if not challenging to complete. The days of cheerful volunteers whipping up a few extra rooms out of someone's leftover lumber are over. Not that recycled materials weren't used (they were), but the entire project—which includes geothermal wells for heating and cooling, solar panels, carpeting made from recycled milk jugs and the usual array of environmentally friendly choices necessary to meet LEED standards—cost upwards of $10 million to complete. Yes, times have indeed changed, but despite the resistance that arose when faced with that "10 percent higher to be green" price tag, those involved in the project persevered to stunning effect.

Hovded assures that eventually, he has every intention of making changes to the green itself. He plans to put in a reclaimed water system for watering the course, install self-sustaining irrigation and to switch over entirely to organic fertilizers. With the current economy and the city's commitment to keeping green fees as low as possible, this could take a while, but the direction is clear.

After my conversation with Hovded, I phone Barry Vesser, deputy director of the Climate Protection Campaign. Vesser says that the Climate Protection Campaign is attempting to raise awareness in as far-reaching a manner as possible. Vesser explains that the Action Plan, which focuses on reducing emissions and boosting the economy, offers 41 solutions and a financing plan for each. The money to fund these changes, which are more about investment and infrastructure than personal behavior change, will come from new investments created within the community via a variety of state-of-the-art financing mechanisms.

The plan covers such aspects as energy efficiency, smart transmit and land use, carbon capturing and sequestering, and the development of renewable energy in the county. We can't afford not to make these changes, Vesser cautions, and when we do make them, we will be able to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent below 1990 levels.

The Greening the Green tournament in benefit of the Climate Protection Campaign tees off on Friday, Oct. 10, with a 'scramble' on the Front 9 followed by a reception. $100. 3330 Yulupa Ave., Santa Rosa. For more information or to participate in the tournament, call 707.525.1665, ext. 114 or contact [ mailto:lora@climateprotectioncampaign.org ]lora@climateprotectioncampaign.org.



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